Where do I start?
Birds are just like people. In order to survive, they need a comfortable living environment with all the same things we need – food, water and shelter. By providing them with those things, you will be making your garden not just beautiful, but bird friendly as well.
What do I need?
The key to designing a bird-friendly garden is lots of plants at different heights to create a multi-layered habitat. Start off with ground covers, small and medium-sized shrubs (for density) and, where possible, add trees that will provide year-round food and shelter for many different species. Use these simple principles to help you plan your garden.
Don’t forget to take into account the plants you already have, and take note of which birds are using them. Instead of removing vegetation straight away, add new vegetation to provide some resources that you might otherwise be missing and to attract new birds to your patch. Remember to make sure there is readily available water (put in a bird bath or two!) and plants that flower at different times throughout the year. That way, your local birdlife will never go hungry or thirsty.
Plants that grow naturally in your area are suited to local conditions and are referred to as indigenous. These plants will provide the right food and shelter for a range of local native birds, unlike some hybrids or plants from other parts of Australia, and are less likely to become weeds or favour larger, more aggressive birds. If you can’t get indigenous plants, general natives are the next best thing. Specifically, here are the types of plants you should get based on the type of birds you are trying to attract (don’t forget to look for the indigenous versions).
Seed-eaters (like finches) generally like dense vegetation to nest, forage and shelter in. Plant grasses next to thick shrubs for an optimal environment. Here are some examples of both shrubs and grasses:
- Acacia (Wattle)
- Themeda (Kangaroo grass)
- Poa (Tussock grass)
Honeyeaters (like spinebills) rely on dense vegetation to nest in, as well as to hide from larger, aggressive or carnivorous birds. However, they feed on the nectar of shrubs and trees, so both types of vegetation need to be accounted for. Here are some examples of plants a honeyeater would be attracted to:
Insect-eaters need to be in or close to dense vegetation, and enjoy many of the same shrubs as honeyeaters. This gives them protection from predators. To make the perfect home for insect-eaters, plant a variety of small shrubs and provide ample mulch on the ground to encourage insect life. Here are some examples of small shrubs:
- Acacia (Wattle)
Benefits of a bird-friendly garden
Birds are truly incredible creatures and Australia is blessed with such diversity, with over 800 bird species occurring on our shores. Birds are a crucial part of the Australian ecosystem, and having native birds in your garden, in turn, helps the environment as a whole. Here are some of the reasons you should make an effort to care about birds and make your garden bird-friendly.
- Birds disperse seeds and pollinate flowers, keeping your garden fertile and healthy
- Birds keep insects under control by eating them
- A garden full of wildlife provides a natural beauty to your backyard
- They make up the environment that we call home, but what few of us realise is – our home is their home as well. Many of our native birds rely on our gardens and parks for their survival.
- Interacting with nature has proven benefits to you physically, psychologically and socially.
For more information on bird-friendly gardening and Australia’s native birdlife, visit the Birds in Backyards or BirdLife Australia website.
Planting guides for native plants
Many local councils provide guide for planting indigenous plants in your garden, which can help attract native birds. Below are some guides provided by our supporting councils.